Murnaghan heading to US as part of Queen’s centenary celebrations

By Niall Gartland

THE tickets have been booked, the accommodation has been sorted and the bags have been packed – well, maybe not just yet on the last part.

Killyclogher footballer Matthew Murnaghan will hop aboard a plane and travel to the United States next week as part of a delegation from Queen’s University Belfast, and to say he’s excited about the whole shebang would be a considerable understatement.

The International Sporting Tour from June 7-17 consists of a delegation of 65 staff and students who will visit New York and Boston as part of a series of engagements across sport, community and business.

The tour is part of the QUB celebrations marking 100 years of competing in the Sigerson Cup (Mattie was their captain this year), while it also aligns with the 30-year anniversary of the foundation of their Ladies’ Gaelic Football team.

Across the tour the men’s Sigerson team will play two exhibition games against New York county in the iconic Gaelic Park in the city, and a USA select team at the Irish Culture Centre in Boston.

But needless to say, it’s not all about the football and honouring of X, Y and Z commitments. There’ll be the usual sight-seeing and socialising, and Murnaghan, a final year Mechanical Engineering student, can’t wait for it all to unfold.

He said: “This is all new to me, I’ve never been to the States before so it’s a class opportunity.

“Our GAA Development Officer Gavin Duffy first mentioned it back in September or October time, and right away it was just a feeling of excitement.

“I always had hopes of going to America at some point, so I’m lucky in the sense I’m involved with the Sigerson team and that it’s the 100th anniversary this year. It coincides nicely, and it’s also 30 years since the Ladies team was formed, so I’m basically lucky more than anything else to be involved with Queen’s at the time of these big anniversaries.”

The 23-year-old has been part of the organisation of the big trip alongside ladies skipper Brid McNally. It’s a neat way to round off his five years at the University, and he’s happy that he’ll be among familiar company in the US.

“I was captain of the Sigerson this year, I’d been about the team for a while now and I’ve a good relationship with the management set-up and they’re coming out as well.

“I was part of the Freshers’ team in first year, and then I played for four years on the Sigerson. We’ll be playing the New York County team and an All-America team in Boston and they can actually call upon a few lads who I played with.

“It’ll be a class opportunity to meet up with those boys as well. I know some ex-Queen’s students who are being invited to the games, so it’ll be a big opportunity for a spot of networking as well.”

Warming to the theme, he continued: “There’s a nice balance to the scheduling. We’ll have a little bit of time to ourselves to do sight-seeing and different activities around the cities, then networking events and different receptions for alumni.

“As students we’re primarily there to play football, but it’s obviously a wider thing for the University as a whole and we’re very lucky to get their backing.”

Murnaghan, who played a key role in Tyrone’s All-Ireland U-17 success in 2017, will also get a chance to sample the lifestyle of a professional athlete when boarding at the Northeastern University in Boston.

He explained: “They’re a partner university of Queen’s so when we’re in Boston we’re staying in their campus.

“When the Ryan Cup was on, they had a group out here who stayed in Queen’s and watched one of our matches.

“We’re staying in their campus which is class, they’re known as a big Ice Hockey university and their sports facilities are class.

“There’s a new multi-sports facility outside Boston and we’re getting the chance to train on it as well, we’ll be the first GAA team to do so.

“All these elite level athletes train out there, it’s a testing facility as well, so it’ll be a massive eye-opener to us as amateur athletes to see what these world-class professional athletes are doing.”

The Killyclogher footballer was also delighted to see clubmates Michael Rafferty and Gavin Potter win their second All-Ireland u-20 title with victory over Kerry just over a week ago.

“Mickey has been an inspiration to everyone, the way he’s conducted himself in the last couple of years.

“Gavin is a talent, I can’t compare him to another player, he’s something else.

“It’s good to see him do well, it was great that he was named provincial player of the year.

“I know he doesn’t put too much weight on those things but he’s played some serious stuff for Tyrone in the last few years.”

Another young Killyclogher footballer, Oisin McCann, played a starring role as Ulster University won this year’s Sigerson Cup.

While they’re university rivals, Mattie acknowledges that it’s more good news from a Killyclogher perspective.

“It was deadly for Oisin as well. We had the Sigerson Cup and O’Connor Cup for the launch of the US tour and we had a bit of craic about that.

“It’s good to see him getting on well, and again it’s a great sign for Killyclogher that we have players like him coming through.”

As for Mattie’s own aspirations going forward, he doesn’t rule out a return to the Tyrone Senior Intercounty set-up (he was involved for a a spell) but his primary focus is with Killyclogher’s forthcoming league campaign.

“I would have aspirations to go back at some point, I’ll have to see how the next couple of years go.

“I’m still a massive Tyrone fan and I’ve ambitions of going back at some point but I don’t have a target date or anything like that. I’ll see how the thing goes, and playing good football for Killyclogher is my immediate target.”

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